Don’t Mess with Success

Unless you have a better product, have tested and focus grouped it extensively.

Case in point: My wife and I like to eat about once a month at the local Olive Garden, which is owned by Darden Restaurants.

We nearly always order the same thing: calamare appetiser, salad, gnocci soup and breadsticks.

Last year, Darden’s new CFO tried to eliminate the breadsticks to cut costs. Major uproar from customers.

This year in the last two months, they changed the recipe for calimari. Said they focus groupped it and customer tested it. Wasn’t as crispy golden brown, and had sesame seeds in the batter. Very bizzare. We didn’t like it.

Had a long chat on the scene with Amy Lamb, the site manager, who was very forthcoming, if a little defensive. I’ll be willing to bet Olive Garden got a new Executive Chef, who made the change, and tested it in a focus group, but probably didn’t test it against the prior version. People do that when they want to rig the results.

The odd thing is that Olive Garden has a number of new items on their menu, but if their customer counts go down because of the calimari fiasco, they may not have the intended effect.

The point of all this is when you’ve got a clear winner, either don’t mess with it, or if you ‘improve’ it, do an a-b test against the prior product. Make sure you cover all your regions in which you sell, and maybe even use a third party to do the tests.

Unless you’ve got a clear winner, and it will increase sales, don’t change.

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